It is 24th April today, and I'm standing from the fourth floor balcony of my flat in Chennai, watching the line form on the street below. I have two polling stations next door - one a corporation primary school and another a Women's social club. The trickle of keen early voters that I saw as I was returning from my run this morning has increased steadily. Unfortunately, my application to be included in the voter rolls was lost in the "system" and I'm going to have to sit this one out. My parents, who live with me, fortunately got in.
So as I returned from my run this morning, while I was performing my post-run stretches to cool down, I struck up a conversation with the security guard in the building, Rajappan. He is registered to vote in his village, which is near Thanjavur. I asked him about how he chose his candidate between the various choices available. "Our thalaivar (leader) chooses for us," he said. "He tells us who to vote for and we do it." I had known that this is the way voting happens in our villages; my previous live-in cook, Mallika, had returned to her village in the previous election to make sure she voted according to the wishes of her leader. "If I don't show up and vote, he will not help me if I need it," she explained.
We may have a secret ballot, but I suspect people like Rajappan and Mallika believe that their all-powerful Thalaivar knows how they've voted. "Who is your Thalaivar supporting this time?" I asked Rajappan. "DMK," he said nonchalantly. Lofty notions of people like himself taking power into their own hands every five years and holding those they put into power accountable for their deeds and misdeeds while in office were obviously lost on him. The election was just another ritual by which he reaffirmed his loyalty to his Thalaivar who is the only person he could go to for help if he had a problem. And that was the only power that mattered.
Executive, entrepreneur, investor and mentor to social entrepreneurs, golf and squash addict, author of thrillers... In short, an amateur dabbler in new experiences, and provoker of thoughts.